Capital Region Legal News

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Latest in the Apple vs. FBI Search and Seizure Conflict

Last year, a stunned nation grappled with the implications that the terrorist group ISIS may have infiltrated the United States –- namely, an ill-fated San Bernardino Christmas party hosted by a center for mentally and physically disabled adults. More specifically, a husband and wife team allegedly opened fire on the unsuspecting crowd, leaving 14 people dead and several others seriously wounded.

Now, the conflict has taken an unprecedented turn as Apple­­, the multinational technology company – makers of the shooters’ mobile phones – has vehemently refused to turn over digital records pertaining to the phones. At issue, the company cites the slippery slope that could ensue once Apple “unlocks” the devices. As a result, Apple and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been at judicial odds with one another, filing brief after brief in support of their positions.

As a bit of procedural background, Apple was originally ordered to unlock the shooters’ iPhones by court order, which followed the Department of Justice’s “motion to compel” the evidence. Apple quickly and publicly denounced the order to unlock the phones, and filed a brief in opposition to the court’s demand. Namely, the company asserts that it would have to code new software to essentially “hack in” to the phones, and so doing would create a dangerous precedent upon which law enforcement across the nation could rely to compel evidence from suspects' Apple products.

In response, the Department of Justice most recently filed its brief in opposition to Apple’s motion to vacate the order, making the following arguments:

  • The burden placed on Apple to unlock the phones is not unreasonable
  • The request complies with the All Writs Act, as well as several other applicable communication acts
  • Apple should not be able to market its phones as “search warrant proof”
  • Requiring a company to add functional source code to its products does not violate users’ First Amendment Rights

In response, a spokesperson for Apple stated that the brief reads "like an indictment," and was "an unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple."

Under the Constitution, law enforcement must secure a warrant – based on probable cause – prior to seizing property belonging to a private citizen. Any information unlawfully obtained without probable cause is subject to suppression and exclusion prior to trial.

If you are facing recent criminal charges and would like to discuss your rights under the law, please don't hesitate to consult with one of our knowledgeable attorneys at Ianniello Anderson at 518.350.7755 where we serve clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy and the entire Northeastern NY area with skill and dedication.

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